(Craft) The Two Conflicts

2Stories that grip the heart often focus on two levels of conflict: internal and external.  The external conflict comes from forces outside the character. The internal conflict stems from forces within the character, usually experiences from the character’s past.

 The “two conflicts”, as I like to call them, engage in a dramatic dance throughout your story, moving your characters through your plot via tension, climax, and resolution. 

Both the internal and the external conflicts work hand in hand, one feeding off the other.  Yet, each is a separate story line in and of itself. But when the internal and external conflicts are intertwined in the fictional dream, the mathematical truism applies:  the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

When writing your story, create an external conflict for your character that will maximize his internal conflict, and vice versa.  Give equal weight to each conflict, realizing, however, that the internal drives the external every time.

Photo Source: Microsoft Clipart

(Craft) The One-Sentence Summary

core of storyFocus is essential to the success of any enterprise. In writing, the ability to focus your story idea can mean the difference between the success or failure of your story.

The starting point of focus when writing your story is to summarize it in a single sentence. This is usually called the “one-sentence summary” and is more easily said than done. But a writing mentor of mine introduced me to a wonderful summary statement template created by former agent Nathan Bradsford that has helped me immensely in writing my one-sentence summary.  The template is as follows:


Let’s take a look at how I used this template in crafting my one-sentence summary for my historical novel set in 19th-century Sicily and entitled The Madonna of Pisano, now being shopped around by my agent: 

When a young woman (CHARACTER) is raped by her parish priest (OPENING CONFLICT), she faces losing her fiancé and
violating the village code of honor in order (OVERCOME CONFLICT) to save her family’s farm (COMPLETE QUEST).

Try using this template with your current WIP or your next story. I think you will find it makes a world of difference in helping you crystallize your core story and, thereby, in helping you write it. 

Please share how you write your one-sentence summary.

P.S. I am preparing a series of short courses on writing fiction. Please tell me what elements of fiction writing are of most interest to you. Thanks!

Photo Source: Microsoft Clipart 

(Craft): Three Elements of Effective Fiction

roller coasterIn his excellent blog, Copyblogger, marketing expert Sean D’Souza writes about the power of story to make a sale. Although Mr. D’Souza is referring to the business world, his ideas can be extrapolated to fit the world of writing fiction. Today I would like to do just that as we consider D’Souza’s thoughts on the three core elements of good storytelling:  the sequence, the suspense, and the roller coaster.

1) Sequence. Every story will usually follow a chronological story line. You, the writer, will take your story from point A to point B to point C, all the way to the story’s conclusion. Readers expect sequence, and sequence grounds your story in time.  Sequence also lends a necessary logic to your story that makes it plausible and believable.

 2) Suspense. A string of events without any excitement, however, will cause your reader to put down your story. In order to prevent that from happening, you need to make suspense an integral part of your story. But what is suspense? Suspense is that element of your story that causes the reader continually to wonder what is going to happen to your character. Suspense is the realm of doubt that keeps your reader guessing and worrying.  I like the way Dictionary.com defines suspense: “anxious uncertainty about what may happen”. 

3) Roller Coaster.  Related to suspense and flowing from it is the roller coaster ride of good storytelling. A good story will keep your reader riding upward on the crest of hope only to plummet suddenly into the trough of despair. Hope and despair alternate throughout your story, creating for your reader the emotional ride of his reading life. 

Three elements of good storytelling: sequence, suspense, and roller coaster.  Keep these elements in mind when writing your stories, with special thanks to Mr. Sean D’Souza for articulating them.

Photo Source: Microsoft Clipart 



(Business) Continuing Education in Writing

Learning to write is an ongoing process. I like to joke that being a writer is like having homework for the rest of your life! (Smile!) On a serious note, however, to succeed in writing, one must be in a continual learning process. Like most other professions, writing requires continuing education.

Throughout my writing career, I’ve made it a point to pursue that continuing education in a variety of ways. You can, too. 

Here are some ways for you to obtain the continuing education that being a successful writer requires:

1) Formal education. While this means of continuing education may not be the most practical for you at the moment since it requires a large expenditure of time and money, it is certainly an available means.  After many years as a professional writer, I decided to fulfill a longstanding dream I’d had of earning my MFA in fiction-writing. So, in my sixties, I went back to school and did that just. I earned my MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. I learned a great deal and had fun in the process. Plus, I fulfilled my longstanding dream. 

2) Conferences. All types of writing conferences abound in a variety of topics and price ranges. With careful research, you can find one that suits your needs, whether those needs be related to finances, time, or proximity. At the end of this post, I’ve listed resources for you to check out regarding writers’ conferences.

3) Workshops. Workshops are often given in a single day, thereby eliminating the need to pay hotel expenses. Many writers’ organizations and local colleges offer one-day writing workshops.  Some libraries do the same. So check out the events calendar for your area. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you discover.

4) Online courses.  I’m a big fan of online writing courses and have taken several of them. Many writers’ organizations offer free online courses, while others charge only a nominal fee. So be sure to check out this excellent continuing education venue.

5) Teleclasses. Teleclasses provide another great venue for continuing your writing education. These are classes conducted over the telephone via a conference call line.  Participants listen to a teaching on writing provided by an experienced author.  The teaching is usually followed by interaction among the members of the teleclass during which they can ask questions of the teacher. Teleclasses usually cost a small fee to attend.  Whether or not they are free, the student must always pay the telephone charges incurred for the time spent on the phone. In my experience, theses charges usually run from two dollars to six dollars. I did, however, once take a teleclass that cost me $90 in telephone charges since the phone number originated on the West Coast and the class lasted 90 minutes.  So keep this in mind when you are choosing a teleclass as a venue for your continuing education.

Opportunities for learning more about fiction-writing are all around you. Take advantage of them. Below you will find a few resources for you to explore.  Have fun!





Copyright 2013 by MaryAnn Diorio, PhD. All Rights Reserved.